Teaching and Research Profiles
The establishment of specific research and teaching profiles serves the purpose of bundling existing strengths, developing new synergies, and enhancing the impact of the university across the whole range of its achievements and potentialities. All disciplines represented at the university are, therefore, called upon to adopt a profile in line with their own specialties. It must at the same time be emphasized that the transdisciplinary focus of the university in no way detracts from the distinctive profiles of its constituent faculties.
Reflecting the university’s strategic goals and the focus of its teaching and research, the following transdisciplinary profiles are held to be essentially equal in rank and significance:
(a) BUILDING BLOCKS OF MATTER, EXPERIMENT, SIMULATION, AND MATHEMATICAL METHODS
Fundamental scientific and mathematical research has always played an important role at the University of Wuppertal, and this has been further enhanced by the development of research focuses in experimental and theoretical particle physics, scientific computing and representation theory. A key research interest in this context is the elementary building blocks of matter and the forces operating among them. Experimental work includes participation in major international projects from particle accelerators to astrophysical observatories. Research on mathematical methods concerned with naturally occurring symmetries opens up possibilities of theoretical analysis and the quest for pattern and law. Theory and experiment are accompanied and supported at the University of Wuppertal by numerical simulation and advanced computation, interdisciplinary activities pursued in close cooperation with the international scientific community – currently (among other things) within the framework of a Collaborative Research Center and a Research Training Program, both funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG). The university’s Interdisciplinary Center for Applied Informatics and Scientific Computing coordinates these advanced computing projects and forms an interface with the natural sciences and engineering.
(b) EDUCATION AND KNOWLEDGE IN SOCIAL AND CULTURAL CONTEXTS
A second transdisciplinary focus is concerned with education and knowledge as decisive social categories. Reflecting the fact that thought, decision and action always take place in socio-cultural contexts, a number of university disciplines undertake research into educational processes and the relation between education and knowledge, not only in institutionally formalized but also in everyday cultural contexts. Located at the interface of the humanities with the educational and social sciences, this field invites the combination of different methodological approaches and offers outstanding scope for successful interdisciplinary activity, which in turn not only constitutes a prerequisite for understanding so complex a subject but also provides an excellent basis for the education of future teachers.
(c) HEALTH, ILLNESS PREVENTION AND MOVEMENT
Prevention and movement are the cornerstones of sustained good health, and with it of the ability to work at full capacity – hence their growing importance to society. Health has long ceased to be the exclusive domain of medicine: in research as in the health sector of the economy it is seen as a complex phenomenon to which many disciplines contribute. Thus at the University of Wuppertal health, health management and public health are approached from the perspective of health psychology, health education in kindergarten and school, sports education, sports medicine and sociology, movement science, work and organizational psychology, safety engineering, health economics and special areas of law. The university aims to draw these various approaches together in interdisciplinary research projects, developing concepts for the strengthening of health competencies in relation to the individual as well as to organizations, and to the locality and region as well as to society at large – a crucial project in the face of social challenges such as demographic change. A special role in this strategy is played by the Regional Competence Center for Health Management and Public Health.
(d) LANGUAGE, NARRATION AND EDITING˙
Penetrating our entire world of knowledge, ideas and intentions, narration and narrative, far from being narrowly literary categories, are omnipresent in the way we grasp, structure, interpret and communicate our experience, whether real or imagined. The University of Wuppertal’s Center for Narrative Research concentrates the research forces of the Faculty of Humanities on this key cultural activity, examining structural and contextual aspects of narration under the headings ‘historical development of literary narration’, ‘non-literary language narration’, and ‘intermedial aspects of narration’. Other cross-departmental areas of humanities research are the theory and practice of textual editing, language acquisition, linguistics, and culture and communications, which has its own Interdisciplinary Center for Culture and Communications Research.
(e) NATURAL ENVIRONMENT, ENGINEERING AND SAFETY
Interdisciplinary research into ecosystems and economic, ecological and social sustainability is pursued at the University of Wuppertal in departments of natural science, engineering, economics and social science, and also draws on the cooperation of the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Energy and the Environment. Ranging from fundamental research to the development of hi-tech processes, efficient systems, and end-user applications, the knowledge chain is sustained by close contact and cooperation with industry. Research in the fields of engineering, ecosystems and safety strategies aims to improve the understanding of the complex contexts of ecological and technical systems, and to promote technological innovation. On the applications side, changing patterns in the ecology as well as in the availability of resources raise issues of environmental protection and globalization that are set to impact future consumer and producer requirements. In this context the development of low energy architecture, sustainable mobility and the ongoing exchange of goods are highly relevant objectives.
(f) BUSINESS, INNOVATION AND ECONOMIC CHANGE
Interdisciplinary research into the relations between entrepreneurship, business start-ups and innovation on the one hand, and economic development on the other, focuses on the economic, legal and political foundations and conditions, as well as the social, psychological, historical and ethical contexts of these phenomena. This involves analysis of the interactions between micropolitical decisions on the part of individual actors and macropolitical decisions at the federal or national level, with all their implications for the development of economic systems. Alongside the input of the faculties of economics (Schumpeter School of Business and Economics), humanities and social sciences, key contributions to the understanding of technological aspects of innovation are made by the engineering faculties and, especially in terms of methodological tools, by the university’s mathematicians and computer scientists. The synergies generated between these disciplines bear visible fruit not only in joint research projects but also in new degree programs such as industrial engineering.